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Home Movies

By Karen Martin

This article was published September 8, 2017 at 1:50 a.m.

Blu-Ray cover for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,

directed by George C. Wolfe

(TV-MA, 1 hour, 33 minutes)

This is the compelling if bare-bones made-for-HBO film version of Rebecca Skloot's nonfiction best-seller concerning the unauthorized harvesting of Henrietta Lacks' cervical cancer cells in 1951 by physicians at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, which led to astounding medical advancements.

But Lacks, who died at the age of 31, never consented to the preservation of those cells -- which could survive and reproduce in a laboratory seemingly forever -- and her family never received any compensation, despite the great profits reaped by researchers and doctors from discoveries made possible by those cells.

Rose Byrne plays Skloot, a Portland, Ore., journalist whose research on Lacks 40 years after her death leads her to the woman's family, including daughter Deborah (Oprah Winfrey) who was 2 years old when her mother died. Deborah, no model of good health herself, is intent on learning who her mother was, how she came to be buried in an unmarked grave in tiny Clover, Va., and why restitution was denied to her descendants.

All performances are first-rate, especially Winfrey as argumentative and difficult 50-something Deborah, who is initially resistant to Skloot's inquiries but eventually decides to partner with the researcher to get to the bottom of the story.

With Leslie Uggams, Renee Elise Goldsberry.

The Last Face (R, 2 hours, 10 minutes) This may be the worst attempt ever to portray the strife -- emotional and physical -- that envelopes a nation with severe human rights troubles. Exploitative, self-satisfied, clumsy and way too long, it concerns two international aid workers in Africa who struggle toward achieving their goals in the middle of an uproarious political/social revolution. With Javier Bardem, Charlize Theron, Jean Reno; directed by Sean Penn. The Blu-ray edition includes a making-of featurette.

The Wedding Plan (PG, 1 hour, 50 minutes) A low-key comedy full of charm and verve that touches on romance, faith, being alone and coming to terms with one's self. Here we have Michal (Noa Koler), an Orthodox Jew who, at age 32, has her lifelong dream of getting married and devoting herself to a committed relationship thwarted when her fiance bails out a month before the highly orchestrated ceremony. Undeterred, she decides to keep her wedding plans on track, sure in her belief that a new bridegroom will present himself within that one-month window. With Amos Tamam, Oz Zahavi; directed by Rama Burshtein. In Hebrew with English subtitles.

Lowriders (PG-13, 1 hour, 38 minutes) Set in the intense car-focused environment of east Los Angeles, this well-meaning low-budget multi-generational drama focuses on a Hispanic teenage street artist (Gabriel Chavarria) who is caught between his loyalty to the world of gorgeous lowrider vehicles that means everything to his recovering-alcoholic father (Demian Bichir) and his dad's resistance to accepting the return of his criminal brother (Theo Rossi) after spending nearly 10 years in prison. With Melissa Benoist, Eva Longoria; directed by Ricardo de Montreuil.

Band Aid (R, 1 hour, 31 minutes) Written, directed and starring Zoe Lister-Jones, this bright, sarcastic, realistic comedy is the story of Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally), a married couple who are constantly at odds with each other. One thing they have in common is a love of music, so they decide to try to save their stormy relationship by turning all their arguments into songs, which leads to starting a band with their neighbor, Dave (Fred Armisen).

Rebecca (not rated, 2 hours, 10 minutes) Now available on Blu-ray, this Oscar-winning 1940 black-and-white masterpiece of a suspense thriller, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (his first American film), concerns a young bride who is terrorized by the memories of her husband's glamorous first wife, who died under mysterious circumstances. With Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson, Nigel Bruce, Florence Bates.

MovieStyle on 09/08/2017

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